On Monday night I went to watch a movie at the Palestinian Film Festival in London. I was slightly reluctant to go, I had just played a netball match and was aching all over, but I had promised a friend I would meet them there at 8pm. We attended the second screening of the night and as I sat in the lecture theatre I couldn’t help but wonder how the heck I was going to stay awake. But, I had heard good things about the film documentary, Ambulance, and so was keen to see it. It definitely did not disappoint.
Ambulance is a film documentary made in Gaza in 2014. It begins with a young man, Mohamed Jabaly, joining an ambulance crew on the day that the war began with the intention of documenting the war. It is barely 5 minutes until the franticness of the war begins to unfold on the screen. Ambulance trip after ambulance trip, the team go into houses and buildings that have been hit, searching for bodies, living or dead. Images of bloodied humans, young and old, fill the lecture theatre screen. It is uncomfortable to watch, but you can’t look away. And then the shot switches and the focus is on the ambulance crew, at the end of their shift, calmly moping the blood off the floor. They methodically work their way through the ambulance in a calm and efficient manner, until every last trace of the night’s madness has been washed away. Then, they are ready for tomorrow. For another day of chaos.
Mohamed’s ambulance crew is led by Abu Marzouq. Abu Marzouq is quiet, somewhat intimidating, and has an incredible calming presence on the crew. They feel safe when he is with them. The turning point in the film documentary is when the team are hit by a bomb whilst inside a building they had been called to. Abu Marzouq is injured and the whole team are frantically unsure of where he is, if he is okay and what they are required to do. Shockingly, Mohamed has this all on film. He was filming when they got hit and the camera continued to roll as he ran away from the bombed building. You can hear him breathing, you can’t see much apart from fragments of light, you can feel his fear.
I have never seen anything as real as this film. We have become so desensitized to horrific images of war on the television that they no longer affect us in the same way. A picture of a bloodied child, whilst upsetting, is no longer shocking in the media. Yet, this film captures more than that. It is informal, you can see the ambulance crew getting annoyed at having a camera in their face, playing up to the camera, and slowly becoming attached to the camera and the person behind it. The raw emotions caught on the film, the sounds, the shakiness as Mohamed films whilst running. It hits you hard. And, what hits you harder, is the fact that this viewpoint isn’t just one of a kind. It is one of many horrific viewpoints of those that experienced this war.